Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
I accept what the Deputy says. Within four or five days of our meeting, I told the representatives that I had urged the company's senior executive to engage with them on the terms of the Labour Court recommendation. I have no guarantee that such engagement will resolve the matter but I made my views clear to the company management. There is not a huge amount of money involved and the company has an obligation to negotiate. It has agreed to re-enter those negotiations and I hope a resolution can be found. It is unreasonable that the workers should be expected to wait until it is discovered whether moneys might be available from the EU in the future. One of my officials has dealt directly with the workers' representatives. If there is a communications issue, I will ask him to convey that message to the company.
Oil prices and interest rates were the primary drivers of inflation in the past year. If they are excluded from the latest figures, the increase last year was 2.1%. In other words, inflation is not accounted for across an entire basket of products and services. Rather, these two elements are accounting for half the inflation rise and both are outside domestic control.
There are other areas where we have influence. The figures being discussed yesterday and last week show the inflation rate for consumer services running at 8% in December compared to a rate of 1.2% for consumer goods. There is unquestionably an issue about competition in the services sector and I am sure IBEC will examine that as well because it is very clear.
From a positive perspective, the anti-inflation group, which has worked under social partnership and which worked very well in 2003, has been reactivated and has started a range of meetings with numerous organisations. It will meet the Commission on Energy Regulation next month and it has met the CSO, the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. The group has been reactivated and, obviously, the Government is driving that to see where we can make changes. Our analysis shows that consumer services are a prime example of where there have been huge price increases of over 8% as against consumer goods which have increased by 1%. It is not the case, as some groups have said, that the increases have been in consumer goods. The increases have been in consumer services. The goods in the shops have risen only by 1.2%. IBEC and others should look very carefully at consumer services and at some of the competition issues surrounding that.